Arts, Meta Stuff

Down Come the Walls, a Short Meditation

I saw this on My Modern Met (YouTube) and immediately found it to be a great meditation for freeing yourself from whatever you think is hemming you in.

Think of a problem or mindset you’d like to be free of – something you feel blocked about, or restricted in some way. Now, imagine that you are standing in the middle of this spiral, you can look back at the pathway you took to get there over your lifetime. The walls or fencing around you consists of all the thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, anxiety, and mental self-talk you have picked up along the way. And the white pieces on top are your unproven or unresolved fears.

When you are ready, press play and imagine all those issues coming down, and see the beautiful imprint left as a result.

Relax and repeat.

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Beliefs, Books, Film, Meta Stuff, Television

Do Your Beliefs Define You?

No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and host of Ovation’s Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, brought up a new idea when she asked him, “What is belief?” He answered, “Identity.”

I’ve spent my life sifting through various religions and philosophies in search of what I truly believe. From the time I was introduced to the Catholic Church, I’ve been trying to determine what is real for me. It didn’t do me much good to sit through a mass delivered in Latin if I didn’t understand the language. My high school didn’t even teach Latin. I only knew a deity that demanded obedience or else. No matter how well behaved I was I didn’t experience enlightenment.

I was born on Native American soil while being of European lineage. I got in trouble if I asked the priests or nuns about the differences in belief systems. Who was right? Like most people, I was in search of “the truth.”

If belief is identity, I didn’t know who I was for most of my life. I know now (or think I do), but what if you don’t? Are you void of identity if you don’t know what you really believe? I don’t think so. You just don’t know how to define it with clarity. Doesn’t mean that you don’t know your own mind.

When you ask a Jewish person “who” or “what” they are, they will generally respond with their religion instead of a nationality. “I’m a Jew.” I’m not sure any other group of people does this with as much conviction. Ask an Irishman the same question and he will identify regionally. I’ve always been a blend of several varieties like table wine. I’m not comfortable with labeling my belief system as any one thing. If I had to, I’d call it Open. Open to all systems of belief, understanding that even through our differences we share common ground.

There’s the old “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” line. But being spiritual is not the same as believing in a deity. In my view, I am a spirit living in a human body. Being human is the perspective from which I view the world. As much as I can identify with other species, I am human and cannot view life from any other perspective. Just as the humans who penned all the religious texts on the planet. They identified their beliefs in human terminology, including their gods. Does this perspective define me? Of course it does. What I believe about everything defines me: business, politics, art, morality, etc. Stir all those things into a pot and you have a souffle as unique as the human who made it.

At last week’s RiverRun Film Festival, the film Heavenly Nomadic told the story of a dying culture of horse people who, when the leader of the clan died, killed his horse to go with him to the next life. Talk about a defining belief system. Indigenous people honor elements in nature, especially animals.

I adored this film by the way.

I envy Aslan’s ability to clearly articulate my own understanding. If you are as fascinated by belief systems and other world views as I am, check out his books as well as the series Oprah Winfrey produced last year called Belief, and Morgan Freeman’s current series running on the National Geographic channel, The Story of God.

Cover artBelief

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman logo.png

 

 

Meta Stuff, Television

Is Proof Possible?

proof

TNT’s latest summer offering, executive produced by Kyra Sedgwick, has promise, provided that it’s offered the opportunity to grow. The life-after-death topic has not been edgy enough for prime time. In the past, audiences have responded more favorably to soap-opera drama, adult animation, and modern day fairy tales. And this subject often alienates conservative viewers with its less than glorious peek behind the veil. No saints at the gate or winged ushers to guide arrivals to the wizard in that great kingdom in the sky.

Being a realist, I am excited about this show and hope it will portray the real work doctors have done in researching the existence of an afterlife. Having studied the works of Professor Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., I know there is a mountain of material to support this theory. I am hopeful that some of the experiments conducted in The Afterlife Experiments and The G.O.D. Experiments will be brought to life on the small screen. Actual tests done with patients who flat-lined for a number of minutes who claimed to see and hear everything that occurred in the room after their heart stopped.

Proof follows a surgeon (Jennifer Beals) who has had her own unexplained life-after-death experiences since losing her teenage son. She remains a skeptic, as do most scientific people. But she is approached by a dying billionaire who promises to fund her disaster relief efforts should she employ her skills to aid his research. What happens to the consciousness after death?  Big money is too sweet a carrot, so she’s in, but unconvinced she’ll find much. Yet, she holds a kernel of belief that her son might not be completely gone. As long as she hangs onto that ounce of reasonable doubt that physical death is not the end, she can be propelled to consider ideas she once thought preposterous.

To my own mind, I don’t believe there is proof. Proof implies tangible, physical evidence. There is no such thing when dealing with the 21 gram “soul” that science has labeled as the weight of individual human consciousness. It is not physical matter.

My fingers are crossed that the producers can do right by the subject matter, and that it finds an audience open enough to give it a chance, at least for the ten episodes it has shot.

Meta Stuff

Chocolate Shamanism

cacao

On a friend’s recommendation, I attended a spiritual ceremony performed by a shaman who offered attendees what I can only describe as seriously potent hot cocoa. You drink it with the intention of bringing love into your heart to help heal the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual bodies.

Cacao is the basis of chocolate and is not a psychotropic like peyote. In its pure form, it is quite bitter. This particular batch had been grown and prayed over for the purpose of ceremony.

Chocolate and shamanism? Let the healing begin!

If you know me at all, you know that no matter how enlightened I grow to be, I’m still a skeptic at heart. But I’m also big on discovery – trying things to find what works. I’ve attended a lot of functions on endorsed by people who raved about their experience only to have mine fall short, or even flat.

What did I know going in? I was going to drink ceremonial chocolate, and it may or may not be a healing experience. The shaman said that once we had consumed the full dosage, we’d feel all kinds of emotional love. Did I need love and healing? Well, doesn’t everyone? I have a chronic backache and a past that has taken a few chunks out of me. So, I’m open to some heart chakra mojo.

After drinking half the dose (four ounces) of cacao, the shaman led the group in a short meditation. I can’t say the cacao offered any assistance, as my shamanic journey was equal to any I’d had without cacao. My head began to feel like someone had wrapped a quilted turban around it. My own voice sounded altered to my ears. But I can’t say the meditation felt different than any I’d done on my own.

Round two, another four ounces, another journey. The earth didn’t move, and I didn’t have any sort of trip. I wasn’t overwhelmed with emotion, spouting “I love you, man” or weeping uncontrollably like a couple others. Perhaps I’m too jaded, or put a wall of skepticism up. I enjoyed the energy of like minds coming together to heal. A couple attendees had just walked away from the rat race, a couple others were recovering from grief, and some were just curious and sought a deeper experience. Everyone was seeking love or healing through inner journeying after conventional methodology had failed.

On the two-hour drive home, I felt relaxed and satisfied that I’d had an enjoyable afternoon, but I can’t say I embraced the medicine of Mama Cacao. I didn’t feel any more loving toward myself (or other drivers) or feel as if the world should be in perfect harmony.

Then I got up the next morning.

Immediately, I noticed that my back was only mildly sore. After a four- hour drive, and another four hours of sitting on the floor, I should have been much stiffer and far less mobile, even hanging onto furniture to move through the room. I’ve had chronic back pain since I was ten. I’ve seen chiropractors, massage therapists, orthopedic doctors who have offered traditional methods that only provided temporary relief. This healing, too, was temporary, but strong enough to notice in a short period.

I also felt more empathic to the feelings and emotions of others. I, myself, was not more emotional, just aware of everyone else’s, even if they were not opening expressing themselves. The ceremony seemed to have had a longer lasting effect as it continues more than a week later.

Even though I didn’t have a moving experience at the time, the aftereffects have been noticeably clear. Chocolate and shamanism do go well together. Don’t knock it, till you try it.

Day in the life, Meta Stuff

To Believe or Not Believe

Religion 2

Why can’t we just agree to disagree?

This post follows on the heels of my last. I had forwarded the article on Jimmy Carter leaving his church to my FB feed without comment or opinion. A grave mistake on my part as it caused a war of words between two of my FB friends over beliefs.

The article was both religious and political, which is like lighting a stick of dynamite next to a chunk of C-4. I reserve my personal opinions for my blog instead of using a more public forum. But their fiery exchange made me ask: what causes people to get so wound up when someone opposes their belief system?

Intellect + Emotion = Passion

Passion can be expressed with kindness, courtesy, and objectivity instead of aggression. I’ve learned not to attack the belief system of another just because it doesn’t match my own. Everyone has the right to believe what they chose. So I was a little stunned to see two mature, respectable adults slinging mud at each other over someone else’s shifting belief system. Unbeknownst to them, these two people have much more in common that they’d care to believe. Both are from the same generation, the same country, both educated, kind, generous, creative people, who lost all objectivity when faced with a political and religious topic. I wish they would have been able to have a spirited debate without resorting to cheap shots and name-calling.

It was like a bad joke. A Christian and an Atheist walk into a bar. Had I been the bartender, I’d have hosed them down with the soda dispenser.

People have been battling over religion and politics since their inception. I wonder, what does God, (if he exists) think about that? Is he amused, binge watching the live theater of Earth with a bowl of popcorn? Or is he saddened that people spend so much energy focusing on differences failing to recognize their common ground? There is far more commonality in the world’s many religions than differences. As human beings, we would grow so much greater as a world community if we honored and respected each other instead of fought battles over who was right or wrong.

Aren’t there many paths to the same destination? Does God really care which route we took to get there? Will we have all these answers when we die? Because we’re all going to die.  And there are a million ways to go. Death is a very personal and individual experience. So why don’t we expect our every experience will be individual? Especially our belief systems.

What good does it do anyone to tear down someone else’s belief system? Is it good, kind, or necessary? Does it create peace and harmony?

I’ve heard people say to their kids, “What someone else thinks of you is none of your business.”

Okay. If it’s none of my business what someone thinks of me, then it’s none of God’s business what I think of him, right? And, therefore, it’s none of anyone else’s business either.  If God exists, isn’t he more evolved than us? I don’t think God wastes time thinking about what anyone thinks of him. So I don’t waste time on it either.

I’m married to someone whose beliefs differ greatly from mine. We are living proof that people of opposing beliefs can co-exist in harmony. We have stood in separate lines at the voting polls. We read and view news differently, keep our hot-button opinions to ourselves, and respect each other’s right to think and feel differently. We don’t criticize, attack, or judge each other for those differences. Our home is peaceful because we have plenty more in common than the couple things we don’t. I like to think we are passionate about the things we share, instead of the things we don’t.

Nobody likes being judged. It’s destructive. Seek to uplift and create, not destroy. Spend your energy on what is near and dear to you, and don’t worry about what other people think and believe. You want something to believe in? Believe in your ability to be tolerant and kind to others who hold opposing beliefs. The world is big enough for all of us.